• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe again declined comment Tuesday on whether he will visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on a World War II anniversary next week, but added he would not tell his ministers not to go.

“I will not respond (to the question about) whether I will visit” the shrine on the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the war, Abe told a press conference in Hiroshima, amid prospects that any such visits would trigger fierce criticism from neighboring countries, most notably China and South Korea.

“Whether Cabinet ministers will visit (Yasukuni) in their private capacity is an issue of their belief. So they are free” to go, he added. “I will not request my ministers to visit or not to visit (the shrine). I should not do that.”

Government and ruling party sources said last week that Abe will refrain from visiting Yasukuni on the anniversary to avoid worsening relations with China and South Korea that are already plagued by territorial rows as well as divergent perceptions of Japan’s wartime aggression in Asia.